24 Oct 08
The final two rallies of the WRC season, Rally Japan and Wales Rally GB, are arguably the two most important ones for Japanese manufacturer Subaru and its British based World Rally Team.
In the past the team has tasted success on each of them, most recently when 2003 World Champion Petter Solberg won them both in 2004. Now, after three lean years for the blue and white squad, Subaru is hoping to round off the 2008 season with two podium finishes - at least - for its latest Impreza World Rally Car, the WRC2008.
Before he left for Japan, wrc.com spoke with Subaru World Rally Team managing director Richard Taylor about the forthcoming rallies, the development of the WRC2008 and the team's plans for next season.
The last gravel outing for the Impreza WRC2008 was in August on Rally New Zealand. How much development work have you done on the car since then?
Quite a bit. We've deliberately not focussed on testing and development for tarmac because Japan and GB are obviously key events for us. And given that next year 10 events out of 12 are gravel we've put most of our emphasis into gravel in the last month or so. We've done a fair bit of work and hope we'll see the benefit of that next week.
What has your development programme concentrated on?
It's been particularly focussed on the chassis again and dampers - since taking over full responsibility for the dampers we've been working very hard on them. Visibly the car is going to look the same in Japan as it did in New Zealand, and because of FIA homologations we're restricted in what we can do, but we hope we've made a better package of what we've got.
Veteran WRC driver Pentti Airikkala recently criticised the design of the latest Subaru saying its engine was too far forward for it to handle well. Is this a concern?
No. Given that the position and the layout of the Subaru engine has been the same for the last 15 or 20 years we don't agree. Fundamentally the basic layout of the WRC2008 car is the same as before. Of course you adapt your engineering around the base car that you have but it's not an issue for us that we are concerned about.
But after such a positive debut event for the WRC2008 in Greece are you disappointed with the car's results since then?
Obviously we have been aiming for better results that we've seen overall but, having said that, three of the recent events have been on tarmac which isn't a surface we'd put a massive amount of effort or testing into. In Spain and Corsica Petter and Chris literally hadn't had the chance to drive the car in its specification until they actually got to the rally. Instead our effort has been on the gravel, and on the longer term, and we are looking for a step up in the results in these two because of that.
How important are the final two rallies of the year to Subaru?
They are both very important and it almost goes without saying we've got to target podiums at the very minimum - wins really - on those two events. That's what we've got to be aiming at.